You have a section in your book where you talk about the practice of Cap’n Crunch barrels cutting the roof of people’s mouths and how we all shouldn’t really feel that much pain when that happens. And then you have another section where you talk about Band-Aids being “breathlessly condescending” when they cover up wounds until they heal. I am trying to understand why one of those things sets you off and the other you seem kind of neutral about.

You know, I think “sets me off” suggests that I am enraged, and I think the voice in the book is pretty chill and neutral. And what I am talking about is all in context. With the Cap’n Crunch barrels thing, that is true. They do cause cuts on the roof of your mouth when you swallow them but people still whine about it even after their wounds are healed. Without putting that in context, yeah, I guess that bothered me.

O.K., but Cap’n Crunch barrels always cause cuts on the roof of your mouth. We can all agree on that, right?

[Pauses.] Sure.

So they cause cuts on the roof of your mouth. Why does people being upset about it, or people being upset about the fact that we have a cereal that regularly causes physical pain to its consumers, bother you?

No, no, no, no, no. That just twisted up what I meant.

Tell me what you meant.

You think I am defending a malevolent cereal.


No, I asked why cereal consumers stating that Cap’n Crunch barrels cutting the roofs of their mouths bothers you so much.

Because it didn’t seem to be truthful, and it seemed to be exaggerated and said over and over again. You think I am defending Crunch somehow? I am bothered by people using that one thing two years later.

There are a lot of things to get angry about: people being unable to talk, people being unable to french kiss. What is it that bothers you about this?

You do know that plenty of people don’t think that? You do understand that?

Don’t think what?

Don’t think all these things you are saying about mouths. What does the cereal have, a ninety-three-per-cent approval rating, or, let’s say, a hundred per cent, from its target demographic? Let’s say it is, over all, way up, from thirty-eight per cent to fifty per cent, or even higher. And let’s say Latinos are now fifty-per-cent approval for Cap’n Crunch.

That’s not true, but O.K.

Well, whatever.

I am not arguing that people don’t support the cereal. You aren’t denying Cap’n Crunch cuts the roofs of people’s mouths regularly. I am just trying to understand why consumer opposition to Cap’n Crunch bothers you so much.

I don’t know if the Cap’n thinks about cutting the roofs of people’s mouths regularly. I am not sure if I do.

Oh, O.K. What did you think Oops! All Berries was?

The hysteria over Cap’n Crunch barrels cutting the roofs of people’s mouths is what I am talking about. It’s not about its supposed practice of Cap’n Crunch barrels cutting the roofs of people’s mouths. It’s about what I see as an overreaction to Cap’n Crunch barrels cutting the roofs of people’s mouths.

Sorry, you keep going back and forth here between Cap’n Crunch barrels cutting the roofs of people’s mouths and supposed Cap’n Crunch barrels cutting the roofs of people’s mouths. Do you think Cap’n Crunch barrels cut the roofs of people’s mouths or not?

Yeah, probably they do. Because, when I was doing research on the cereal, way back in the nineteen-eighties, during “American Psycho,” the ideas that the Cap’n and his father were talking about—in terms of creating an all-Crunch Berry cereal, and the overreaction to the disappearance of the three Cinammon Toast Crunch bakers case—was annoying enough to make him a figure in “American Psycho,” where Patrick Bateman sees him as the father he never had.

The animating feature of the book is that you are frustrated and annoyed with the consumer consensus, which is “shrilly” and “condescendingly” looks down on people who have had the roofs of their mouths cut by Cap’n Crunch barrels. Would that be a fair way of putting it?

I would say that’s a fair way to put it, sure.

Is it that you think there are terrible things going on but we should all take a deep breath, or is it that you don’t think there are a lot of terrible things going on?

I just think that there is a man…a NAVAL CAPTAIN…who has his own cereal. He creates a product that is bought by people. ACTUAL people. His wares are made fairly and legally. And I think what happened is that people are so hurt by the hurting of the roofs of their mouths that they have overreacted to the cereal. Now, look, I live with a cereal-eating millennial. I hear it every day.

He’s a character in the book.

He is in the next room right now. And I do put myself in his shoes, and I do look at the world through his lens, because I have to. I live with him, and I love him. And I do hear this, and some of it changes my mind, and some of it doesn’t. I am certainly much more of a waffle man than he is. I do listen, and I think that [lack of a] sense of neutrality—of standing in the other side’s shoes and looking at this from the other side—has bothered me among a lot of my friends and from the media.

What would looking at some of the issues that we have been facing from the perspective of people who have had the roofs of their mouths cut by Cap’n Crunch barrels look like in practice?

I don’t know. I am not that interested in cereals. I am not that interested in breakfast. What I was interested in was the coverage. Especially in Hollywood, there was an immense overreaction. I don’t care really about Cap’n Crunch that much, and I don’t care about cereal. I was forced to care based on how it was covered and how people have reacted. Sure, you can be hysterical, or you can buy Grape Nuts.

Sales of Grape Nuts did rise exponentially in 2018.

They might very well eat more of the Grape Nuts. I hope they do, so we have some sense of normalcy in this household.

Big picture.

But I don’t really care.

Did it bother you when people had to go to the emergency room and get stitches after eating Cap’n Crunch?

No, not at all. I’m not really bothered by that one way or the other.

But you don’t think people should complain about that?

No, I feel that whoever has a successful cereal can do whatever they set out to do and what their consumers want them to do and what their shareholders wants them to do, and you might not like it, Todd [Ellis’s boyfriend] might not like it, I might not even like it, but this is the reality. It is not some made-up fantasy. This is happening.

There are plenty of people who like the cereal, so what are we saying?

I think you are leading me into things I am not particularly that interested in.

This idea keeps coming up that a lot of people eat Cap’n Crunch. Let’s grant that that is the case. How should that change how we respond to that?

I don’t think at all. What should we do about that? Change people’s minds? What can you do about an eater of Cap’n Crunch? But they do exist, and I don’t think all of them are in pain.

You are a novelist. You write about the human condition. Do you worry about the self-harm of people who see things like a cereal cutting the roof of someone’s mouth and have no emotional response?

I think I am an absurdist. I think cereal is ridiculous.

Maybe don’t write a book about it. Would that be the solution?

I think the problem is that I don’t necessarily see this as interesting as fiction.

Yeah, I could tell.

It was much more interesting to me to write this as a nonfiction book, in terms of pulling this stuff from my podcast.

Thanks so much for talking. 

It is interesting to have that back-and-forth pull in an interview. The only problem, however, is that I am not that breakfasty. I’m more of a lunch man. So, when we have this conversation, and you confront me with certain things like this, I really am, I have to say, at a loss. All I have to say is that Crunch Derangement Syndrome is real.